What Does the New Testament Teach About the Law?

Has the Law of Moses Been Revoked?

By David M Rogers

www.BibleTruth.cc

Published: August 2010

Table of Contents

What Did Messiah Have to Say About the Law?

Messiah's Confrontations With the Pharisees

The Teaching About the Law in the Book of Acts

The Jerusalem Council

Sabbath Keeping in Acts

Paul's Confirmation of His Obedience to the Law

Paul's Teaching About the Law in Romans and Galatians

Romans 10

Romans 2

Galatians 2:15-21

James' Use of the Law

Being a Doer of the Word

Faith Without Works is Dead!

The Use of the Torah in James

The Law in 1 John

The 10 Commandments in Revelation

Summary


I remember when I was a young boy that one of my favorite songs I learned in church was "Trust and Obey."  The lyrics go like this:

When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way.  While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.  (Chorus) Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

I think I liked this song because it summarizes the Christian life in a few short words: trust and obey.  That was very easy for a young boy to understand.

As an adult, the simplicity of that song does not diminish for me the profound truth it communicates.  Really, just like the song, the Scripture summarizes the life of faith is a few small words, too.  Ecclesiastes sums up our duty in life before Elohim:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear Elohim and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man.  For Elohim will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Fearing Elohim speaks to our attitude toward Elohim and is the trusting part.  And keeping his commandments is the obeying part.  That's it in a nutshell.  That's what the whole of our lives ought to focus on.

But the problem with the song for the Christian is that it doesn't explain what I am supposed to obey.  I always had a vague notion about the requirements and rules of the Christian life.  And there was always the parents, the pastor, and others to let me know what rules I was supposed to obey.  More importantly, the Holy Spirit was an ever present help to me to guide my conscience to obedience.  But the rules were always a little fuzzy.

Now the church teaches that the Old Testaments laws and rules pretty much no longer applied.  God didn't expect those who belong to Messiah to keep those old laws.  Jesus had given us new laws and new rules and new ways to follow and obey.  So what's a person supposed to do?  What laws does the Creator require us to obey if we want to "trust and obey"?  What does the Bible teach about this, and specifically the New Testament?  What laws does Elohim call us to obey?

What Did Messiah Have to Say About the Law?

Messiah Yahusha had a very clear word about his teachings and the things that we need to obey.  He claimed that the things he taught were not his own teaching, but the Father's:

Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (4th Gospel [John] 14:10-11)

and

He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (4th Gospel 14:24)

For those who heard him and were familiar with the instructions of Torah, these words were rich in meaning.

Because the Torah of Mosheh was read in cycles, going through the entire Torah each year, the Yehudim of the 1st century were quite familiar with the teaching about the Prophet to come.  Mosheh spoke about the Prophet that was to come.

Yahuwah your Elohim will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of Yahuwah your Elohim at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of Yahuwah our Elohim nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."  Yahuwah said to me: "What they say is good.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 18:15-19)

The Yehudim knew that a Prophet was going to come who would wield the very authority of Elohim.  They knew that this prophet would speak the words of Elohim to the nation of Israel.  And they knew that Yahusha was claiming, by the words he chose, to be this very Prophet.

As the Prophet, Yahusha's words were not his own, but he carried Elohim's message and Elohim's words.  And so it makes sense that Yahusha would confirm the Torah of Mosheh to Israel, because the Torah of Mosheh is the written account of the words Elohim spoke to Mosheh, the laws and rulings, the commandments and the witnesses.  And this is precisely what Yahusha did.

Yahusha testified, in the Sermon on the Mount, that he would not destroy the message and the words of the Torah and the Prophets:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

This teaching, though misinterpreted by most Christian teachers and preachers, clearly and unambiguously dismisses the thought that Yahusha had come to abolish the Law and create a new law (which is what most of these errant Christian spokespeople have been saying for centuries).  Not only was he not abolishing the Torah, but in fact, he was teaching that what a believer does with the Torah is going to be the determining factor in his esteem in the kingdom of heaven.  Those Christian teachers who instruct their congregations to ignore the Old Testament Law and break the Old Testament Law and desecrate the Sabbath day, and eat pig and lobster and all other manner of abominable creatures, will be the very least in the reign of Messiah.  But those who obey all the Torah in every detail and teach others to do the same will be the Great Ones in the reign of Messiah.

So Jesus did not do away with the Law.  Neither did Jesus nail the Law to his cross.  Neither did Jesus abolish, abrogate or ignore the Law of Mosheh.  On the contrary, he upheld the Torah by doing the Torah in his daily walk and living.  And he instructed his disciples to do the same.  The entire Sermon on the Mount is his teaching discourse explaining to his disciples how to properly interpret the Torah and keep the commandments of the Torah.  (For a detailed discussion of the entire Sermon on the Mount, click on the link to a study article.)

Messiah's Confrontations With the Pharisees

In order to see the complete picture of Yahusha's approach to the Law, we must examine his disputes and confrontations with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law.  The reason this is important is that the confrontations were always on the subject of how they kept or did not keep the law.

The nature of those confrontations has not been fully understood.  It has been taught that the primary difference between Messiah and the Pharisees was over the manner in which the Pharisees kept the law.  Yahusha rebuked them,

Then Yahusha said to the crowds and to his disciples:  "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Mosheh's seat.  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.  But do not do what they do, for they say and do not." (Matthew 23:1-3)

Because of this kind of rendering of the Greek text of Matthew, most Christians think Messiah was telling his disciples to obey all the teaching of the Pharisees.  But there is a huge problem with this interpretation.  The problem here is that the Pharisees did not teach the word of Elohim.  They taught their own traditions as superseding the word of Elohim:

Then Pharisees and experts in the law came from Yerushalayim to Yahusha and said, "Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders? For they don't wash their hands when they eat."  He answered them, "And why do you disobey the commandment of Elohim because of your tradition? (Mattityahu 15:1-3)

There is no commandment in Scripture about washing one's hands before partaking of food.  If someone tells you that Elohim commanded us to wash our hands before eating, then you should be made aware that that person doesn't know the Scriptures and has accepted and believed the lie that is being told about this saying of Messiah.  I repeat, Elohim says nothing to us in Torah about washing hands before eating a meal.

But the Pharisees have something to say about washing the hands.  A well-known teaching (takenah) of the Pharisees is that one must undergo a ritual cleaning of the hands before a meal.  But this is a man-made teaching!  In their Oral Law, the Pharisees teach that hands have to be washed to remove any defilement that would cause anything touched (i.e., food) to become unclean.  Yahuwah never said this.  The Pharisees did!  And so Yahusha replies to these legalistic Pharisees (they are "legalistic" because they want to enforce man-made commandments!), "And why do you disobey the commandment of Elohim because of your tradition? (Mattityahu 15:3).

This response of Yahusha is to draw attention to the fact that the Pharisees were suggesting that their own commandments superseded the commands of Elohim.  And he gives another example of this:

For Elohim said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.'  But you say, 'If someone tells his father or mother, "Whatever help you would have received from me is given to Elohim," he does not need to honor his father.' You have nullified the word of Elohim on account of your tradition. (Matthew 15:4-6)

The commandment of Scripture to "honor your father and mother" includes the responsibility one has to take care of your parents in their older years.  The Pharisees, however, in their greed wanted to convince people that it is acceptable to take the money one should be using to care for their parents and to put that money in the temple treasury instead!  Thus, they could rob people of this money and use it to their own ends.  At the end of the day, they taught that their own commands to put that money in their treasury boxes was more important than helping one's own parents, and thus, their commandment superseded the command of Yahuwah.

So he calls them "hypocrites."  A hypocrite is a "fake" or "pretender" (the Greek word means "play actor").

Hypocrites!  Yesha'yahu prophesied correctly about you when he said, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' (Matthew 15:7-9)

This quotation from the prophet Yeshayahu 29:9-14 speaks of a large number of people who claim to worship Elohim.  In their sinful human nature, people want to appear as worshipping Elohim and obeying him, but in their hearts they want to live their life in the own ways, following their own evil desires.  The Pharisees were such.  They wanted to appear righteous by showing off in public places, but they refused to honor Elohim by obeying his clear commandments.  They made up their own laws and rules which they taught were more important than Yahuwah's instructions.

So, there is this huge problem with the Greek texts that get translated like this:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses seat.  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.  But do not do what they do, for they say and do not." (Matthew 23:1-3)

This rendering cannot be possible.  Yahusha would not have told his disciples to obey the Pharisees who regularly taught the people to transgress the Torah in favor of their own teachings and traditions.

So, what did Yahusha actually say here?   There are a few very old Hebrew texts of Matthew which scholars are beginning to believe may more accurately reflect the Hebrew original text of Matthew (see The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus, by Nehemiah Gordon, p.48)  These texts read a little differently.  They say,

The Pharisees and sages sit upon Mosheh's seat.  Therefore, all that he says to you, diligently do, but according to their reforms (Hebrew, takanot) and their precedents (Hebrew, ma'asim) do not do, because they talk but they do not do.

So, Yahusha was telling his disciples to obey the written Torah of Mosheh and to ignore the laws of the Pharisees.  This is perfectly consistent with all his other teachings in the Gospels regarding the Torah.

The fact that there are actually two Torahs - the written Torah and the oral Torah - is well known by the Jewish Rabbis, but not understood at all by most Christians.  The famous Pharisee Shammai said so:

A Certain gentile came to Shammai: The Gentile said to him, How many Torah’s do you have? (Shammai) answered: TWO.  The written Torah and the ORAL TORAH (Torah She-Be’al Peh) (Babylonian Talmud, Sabbath 31a).

There was an historical reason why the Yehudim enacted another set of laws.  Because their own prophets told them that the Babylonian captivity was brought upon them due to their disobedience to the Covenant commandments of Yahuwah, the elders of Israel wanted to prevent another apostasy.  So, they desired to "build a fence around the Torah."  This fence would help keep the Yehudim from straying away from the commandments of Yahuwah.

Unfortunately, this "fence around the Torah," also known as the Oral Torah, was a large body of man-made commandments, which instead of protecting the written Torah of Mosheh, actually superseded and contradicted the written Torah almost at every turn.  Yahuwah had told his people,

Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of Yahuwah your Elohim that I give you. (Devarim 4:2)

See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. (Devarim 12:32)

Thus, the Pharisees, et al, were breaking this commandment not to add to or take away from Yahuwah's instructions.  In doing so, they were elevating their own authority over Elohim's.

The Pharisees had so many of their own made-up laws that it is easiest for us to understand them by separating them into several categories.  The first is the "halacha" or the Pharisaic law based upon their twisted interpretation of Scripture law.  The second is "minhagim" or Pharisaic customs that have become law.  The third is "takanot and gezerot" or enactments and decrees of the Pharisees that take on the authority of law.  And the fourth is the "ma'asim" which are deeds or works of the Pharisees which through their repeated exercise become law for all Yisrael.  (For a detailed study of these laws of the Rabbis, see my study of the Book of Galatians here.

It is because the Pharisees were zealously protecting their Oral Torah rather than the written words which proceeded from the mouth of Elohim, that Yahusha had so many rebukes for them.  At the end of the day, the message the disciples of Yahusha were receiving was this: you don't have to obey the Pharisees and their Oral Torah.  But you must obey the written Torah of Elohim, that which is written in the 5 books of Mosheh.

The Teaching About the Law in the Book of Acts

When we come to the Book of Acts, we can see how the disciples of Messiah treated the Law of Mosheh.  I will cite three examples of how the Torah of Mosheh was regarded by the early disciples.  First, we will take a look at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 to see what the elders decided was needed for new Gentile converts to Messianic faith.  Then, we will review the record of Acts of how the disciples of Messiah kept the Sabbath day and the Festivals of Yahuwah.  And third, we will glance at how Paul's goes out of his way to demonstrate that as a disciple of Messiah Yahusha, he was still keeping all the Law of Mosheh in his faith walk before Elohim.

The Jerusalem Council

The Jerusalem Council was called to discuss and decide upon an important issue in the assemblies of Yahusha: "What should be required of the Gentiles who are entering into the community of faith?  Do they need to obey the Jewish custom of circumcision, or not?"  The occasion is stated thus:

Some men came down from Yehudah to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Mosheh, you cannot be saved."   This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Yerushalayim to see the apostles and elders about this question. (Acts 15:1-2)

Now its important to understand precisely what is being debated here.  The key to understanding is in the expression, "according to the custom taught by Mosheh."  Christians think this is a debate about the applicability of the Old Testament law.  But this is not what the expression means.

The expression, "the custom taught by Mosheh," refers to a Rabbinic custom, not to the Scriptural command.  There are two ways this can be demonstrated.  First, it is well known in Judaism (though not in Christian circles) that the Oral Law speaks of customs taught by Mosheh.  What they mean by this is a commandment, a tradition, a law, or a practice which is taught by the Rabbis, but attributed to Mosheh.  The Rabbis are fond of attributing their own laws and enactments to any famous wise man, a renown Rabbi, or even to Mosheh himself.

And secondly, the conclusion of the Jerusalem Council suggests that the written Torah of Mosheh is something that the new converts to the community of faith would have time to hear and assimilate into their lives as they had time to hear and study the Torah on the Sabbath day gatherings:

For Mosheh has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." (Acts 15:21)

What this justification for their rulings suggests is that the newbies to the community of faith in Yahusha could learn all the rest of the Torah commandments and requirements as they studied the Torah on Sabbath day.

This Rabbinical expression, "custom taught by Mosheh," as it applies to circumcision, refers to their own laws and rules regarding circumcision - the man made laws concocted by the Jewish authorities.  Theirs was a whole body of steps and rules that one must follow in order for the circumcision to be legitimate.  And the Rabbis required strict adherence to each part of their circumcision ritual.  Thus, when Acts 15:1 says that "some men came down from Yehudah" we can understand that these men were of the Yehudim who were insisting that the new converts be in compliance with the Sanhedrin and their Oral Laws, which were nothing more than man made commandments and traditions, and carried no weight of authority from Elohim.

The reason for this custom of the Jews was to exercise their own authority over their converts.  It was not enough for men converting to the community of Israel that he be merely circumcised.  In their view, a man must be circumcised in a very precise ritual fashion.  Thus, anyone who would undergo their ritual custom of circumcision was not essentially submitting to Elohim's written commandments.  Such a man would be submitting to the commandments, customs, traditions, and ultimately to the authority of the Jewish leadership.

So, the council ruled that the Gentiles "must abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood" (Acts 15:20)  Author Samuele Bacchiocchi correctly points out that

the very provisions proposed by James and adopted by the Council indicate that the Gentiles were not granted indiscriminate freedom from the law. Of the four precepts of the decree, in fact, one is moral (abstention from "unchastity") and three are ceremonial (abstention "from pollution of idols and from what is strangled and from blood"--v.20) (From Sabbath To Sunday, p.146)

Whereas, some would argue that the Gentiles were not to be burdened with the requirement that they obey the Torah of Moses, these four precepts imply just the opposite.  The findings of this group of elders suggests that the "4 things" they were "requiring" of the Gentiles did not constitute "all" that the Gentiles needed to submit to.  There were obviously many other commandments that would not need to be debated, such as the Ten Commandments.  Surely, the Gentile converts must "have no other gods besides Elohim" and "not mould an idol to worship it" and "not steal" and "not commit adultery," etc.  Besides, the commandment to "keep the Sabbath day holy" was assumed to be a requirement for the Gentiles in the conclusion they reached to let the new converts learn from Mosheh as he was preached "in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

At the end of the day, the apostles and elders decided that the new converts did not need to be subject to the man made requirements of the Sanhedrin, but that they would be required to learn and do the written Torah of Mosheh as their proper expression of faith in Elohim and in his Messiah.

Sabbath Keeping in Acts

Next, we come to the practice of the apostles in keeping the Sabbath and the annual holy days.  If the Law of Mosheh had been done away with, surely this would have been reflected by the practice of the apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts.  To be sure, Acts is packed with references to the early believers meeting on the Sabbath day.  Yet, Christian opponents of the Sabbath contend that the early believers began to meet on Sunday instead of the Sabbath.  But this is contrary to the written accounts of the apostolic assembly as recorded in the book of Acts.  Luke was very explicit regarding the habit or custom of Paul to meet with the believers on the Sabbath.  In Thessalonica, for example, "as his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures" (Acts 17:2). And in Corinth, on "every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks" (Acts 18:4).  For Paul, it was his way of life ("custom") to go to synagogue on the Sabbath day.

Also, when Paul and his entourage left Perga

they went on to Pisidian Antioch.  On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down.  After the reading from the Law and the Prophets.... (Acts 13:14-15)

And after giving his message, we are told that

As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath.  When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Yehudim and devout converts to the Yehudim followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of Elohim.  On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of Yahuwah. (Acts 13:42-44)

If Sunday had become the "new Sabbath," why did they meet on the Sabbath to hear the word of Yahuwah?  It's pretty clear that the record of Acts verifies the practice of Paul in keeping Sabbath and meeting and reading the Torah and the Prophets on Sabbath.

The Book of Acts also reports that Paul was still observing the Hebrew calendar and the appointed times of Yahuwah.  For example, Paul is seen "hurrying" to get to Jerusalem for the required observance of the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost):

Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Yerushalayim, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:16)

And Luke, who wrote Acts, marks a point in time by citing the appointed fast of Yom Kippur:

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. (Acts 27:9)

So why would Luke have cited The Fast if the followers of Messiah were released from the observances of the Torah and the Hebrew calendar?  Clearly, the Hebrew calendar and the appointed times of Yahuwah were still observed by the Torah compliant followers of Yahusha Messiah.

Paul's Confirmation of His Obedience to the Law

And thirdly, let's consider the testimony of the Book of Acts in regards to Paul's observance of the Law of Mosheh.  The Christian systematic theologies are predicated upon the belief that Paul taught that the Law has been done away with.  Ironically, this is what was reported about Paul in his own time.  After leaving Ephesus and travelling back to Jerusalem, the reports about Paul being a Torah breaker were becoming a problem:

When we arrived at Yerushalayim, the brothers received us warmly.  The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see Ya'acov, and all the elders were present.  Paul greeted them and reported in detail what Elohim had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.  When they heard this, they praised Elohim. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Yehudim have believed, and all of them are zealous for the LawThey have been informed that you teach all the Yehudim who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Mosheh, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.  What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow.  Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the Law. (Acts 21:17-24)

According to this testimony, not only were thousands of the Yehudim converts zealous for the Torah of Mosheh, but Paul himself was living in total compliance with the Torah.  So Paul had to prove to everyone that he was living in obedience to the Torah.  He did so by taking and fulfilling a vow according to the instructions of the Torah.  What could be more clear.  Paul was not breaking the Torah or teaching the Gentiles to break Torah.  He was living consistently in the obedience of the Torah of Elohim.

Later, in his own defense, Paul again confirms his position with respect to Torah.  He admits to believing "everything" in the Torah and Prophets:

"But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a 'sect' I do serve the Elohim of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Torah and that is written in the Prophets" (Acts 24:14)

It's not hard to comprehend in light of this testimony that Paul's statements and actions with respect to Torah paints a picture of a man focused on doing the Torah and teaching the Torah in all its detail.

What further testimony do we need?  The Book of Acts records a consistent message that the apostles and converts to Messiah, both Yehudim and Gentiles, kept and defended the Torah of Mosheh, that they were zealous for the Torah of Mosheh, and that they observed the Sabbaths and appointed times of the Torah.

Paul's Teaching About the Law in Romans and Galatians

The Book of Acts very clearly portrayed Paul as keeping the Torah and going out of his way to make sure everyone could see him in compliance with the Torah.  But what about in his letters?  Does he teach these same things in his writings?  When we come to the epistles of Paul, we are faced with seemingly contradictory statements and attitudes toward the Torah.  On the one hand, Paul calls the law good, righteous and spiritual.  On the other hand, he says that if you follow law you are "fallen from grace."

Again, on the one hand, Paul says that the law is spiritual and that in his mind he wants to keep the law.  Then, on the other hand he says that all who rely on the law are under a curse!  Paul seems to be rather schizophrenic about the law.  Why is he speaking out of both sides of his mouth?  You can't have it both ways.  Either the law is good and we should keep it, or the law is not good and it is to be shunned or avoided.  Which is it, Paul?

But the problem we have in reading Paul and coming to the conclusion that he had mixed ideas about the law is misguided.  In fact, the problem is not with Paul.  It is with us.  We aren't considering all the facts about Paul.  In order to understand what he writes, and not to be distorting his writings like Peter says many have, we have to understand Paul's background and history.  And we need clarification about what Paul is trying to accomplish in his ministry.

We can understand Paul when we first review and consider the conflicts Messiah Yahusha had with the Pharisees.  Remember that he was regularly confronting them because their laws and traditions were in conflict with the written Torah of Mosheh.  Thus, Yahusha was constantly rebuking and challenging the Pharisees to get them to let the word of Elohim be their guide, and not their man made traditions.

So, we also know that Paul was raised as a Pharisee.  He gives this testimony about himself in Acts:

I am a Yehudi, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city (Yerushalayim). Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for Elohim as any of you are today. (Acts 22:3)

Sha'ul (his Hebrew name) was brought up to be a Pharisee and was trained by Gamaliel, who was one of the most renown Rabbis of all time.  Note carefully that Paul says he was "trained in the law of our fathers."  This expression refers to the Rabbinic culture and the Oral Torah.  This "law" he was trained in is different than the written Torah of Mosheh (the first five books of the Bible).

The Rabbis believe that Mosheh received instructions from Yahuwah and wrote some of it down in what is now the first 5 books of the Bible (Genesis through Deuteronomy).  But some of what Elohim told him on the mountain, according to the Rabbis, Mosheh did not write down.  These teachings were passed on orally (by word of mouth) down through the centuries until they were written down by the Rabbis.  These alleged teachings of Mosheh constitute what is known as the Oral Torah.

These teachings known as the Oral Torah have come to take on greater authority than the written words of Mosheh - at least for the Pharisees, and the Rabbis after them.  It is these traditions which Yahusha was constantly rebuking the Pharisees for believing and obeying over the word of Elohim.  And it was this very same man-made tradition, known as the Oral Torah, that Paul calls the "law of our fathers" and of which he was trained as a Pharisee.

So, when Paul came to know Yahusha as the true Messiah of Israel, he had to change a lot of his thinking.  He came to realize that the true word of Elohim (the written Scriptures) were very different in nature than the Oral Torah he was taught as a Pharisee.  And because of his unique position as being (formerly) a superb Pharisee, his objective as a disciple of Messiah was to combat the false teachings of the Pharisees law and promote and uphold the true Law of Elohim which is found in the written Scriptures.

With this background and understanding in mind, we read Paul's apparent schizophrenic treatment of the law in his letters, and we realize that he wasn't schizophrenic after all!  HE IS WRITING ABOUT TWO DIFFERENT LAWS!  He was constantly battling the attempted influences of the Rabbinic community to persuade the disciples of Yahusha to come back under the authority of the Pharisees by getting them to obey THEIR law.  So his treatment of the topic of law appears to be confusing and schizophrenic because we haven't understood that he is talking about two different laws in his epistles.

As we approach Paul's statements about law, we need to exercise the discernment to know which law he is talking about.  Thus, when he speaks of the law as spiritual, righteous, good and holy, we know he is speaking about the legitimate Law of Mosheh which is written down in the Bible.  But when he speaks of the law as being deficient and leading us away from Messiah, and worthless toward salvation, he is speaking about the Rabbinic Oral Torah which is nothing more than man made tradition.

Romans 10

Let's begin our journey into Paul's teaching about the law with a glance at Romans 10.  Paul is talking about the Pharisees when he writes in Romans 10,

For ignoring the righteousness that comes from Elohim, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to Elohim's righteousness. (v.3)

The Yehudim sought their own righteousness by establishing their oral torah, which they thought they needed to obey to please Elohim.  By following and obeying this Oral Torah, they were ignoring and transgressing Elohim's written Torah.  Thus, Paul says, "they did not submit to Elohim's righteousness."

For Messiah is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes. (v.4)

Here, "end" should be rendered "goal" because the Torah points to the Messiah.  One might even say that Messiah is the "living Torah."  As a result of Messiah, there is righteousness for all those who obey ("believe") the Torah (Messiah).

For Mosheh writes about the righteousness that is by the Torah: "The one who does these things will live by them." (v.5)

The Torah, which is the written record of the words which proceeded directly from the mouth of Elohim, claims to be the righteousness of those who obey it.  In another place, Elohim says,

Yahuwah commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear Yahuwah our Elohim, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.   And if we are careful to obey all this law before Yahuwah our Elohim, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness." (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:24-25)

In other words, righteousness is counted to a person on the basis of his performing and keeping all the commandments of Yahuwah.  Could it be that this is why Paul calls the law righteous?

So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (Romans 7:12)

Furthermore, Paul is alluding to the Devarim 6 statement that obeying "all this law" will "be our righteousness" where he writes in Romans:

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in Elohim's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Romans 2:13)

Wait just a second there!  Don't Christian preachers tell us that Paul teaches that no one can be declared righteous by keeping God's Law?  Yet he says just the opposite here.  He says that those who obey the Law will be declared righteous!  What gives?

Here's what gives:  Paul is preaching truth when he says that "those who obey the law ... will be declared righteous" because this is the clear teaching of Scripture.  But, Paul indeed said,

Clearly no one is justified before Elohim by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith."  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." (Galatians 3:11-12)

Here, "the law" that no one can be justified by is the Pharisees Oral Law.  No one can be justified by it because it is man's law, not Elohim's Law.  So, this Oral law "is not based on faith" because it is based on man's own achievement.

Paul had talked about his own achievements done in the flesh (because his obedience was to the law of the Pharisees):

If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more: I was circumcised on the eighth day, from the people of Yisrael and the tribe of Binyamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. I lived according to the law as a Pharisee.  In my zeal for Elohim I persecuted the congregation. According to the righteousness stipulated in the law I was blameless.

 (Paul had performed the law of the Pharisees flawlessly) 

But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Messiah.  More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Messiah Yahusha my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things--indeed, I regard them as dung!

(This is now Paul's assessment of the law of the Pharisees - Oral law is hogwash!)

--that I may gain Messiah, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law (i.e. man's law codes), but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Messiah's faithfulness--a righteousness from Elohim that is in fact based on Messiah's faithfulness (Philippians 3:4-9).

Paul regards the law he was trained in while a Pharisee as dung! (sewage).  This is what he has abandoned - not the keeping of Elohim's law, but the following down the path of the man made Rabbinic Oral Torah.

Paul goes on to write:

And the righteousness which comes from faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Messiah down) or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead).  But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we preach) (Romans 10:6-8)

This is a fascinating statement by Paul  He had just made the statement that the righteousness of the Torah says, "The one who does these things will live by them" (Romans 10:5, quoting Vayiqra [Leviticus] 18:5, "Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am Yahuwah.").  But here in Romans 10:6, Paul starts talking about "righteousness which comes from faith"

Most Christians think he is talking about a different kind of righteousness here in verse 6 where he talks about "righteousness which comes from faith."  But look what he is quoting from in verses 7-8.  It is Devarim 30, where Mosheh is talking about the righteousness of the Torah!!!

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?"  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?"  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.  See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love Yahuwah your Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and Yahuwah your Elohim will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 30:11-16)

The righteousness that is obtained through obedience to the Torah of Elohim is the very same righteousness Paul preaches about and which he is calling "the righteousness which comes from faith" (Romans 10:6)!!

Let's take a minute to let what we just read sink in.  Paul had just said that the righteousness by faith is written about in the Torah.  He then quotes a passage from Devarim in which righteousness from Elohim is obtained by loving Elohim and keeping his commandments.  Thus, Paul's righteousness by faith message points back to the Torah for that righteousness.  It is by expressing loving loyalty to Elohim by keeping his commandments that we are credited with his righteousness.

Now the link Paul is making between faith and Torah is meant to point out to us that the doing of the commandments of the Covenant is a very doable goal.  But for Paul there is a vast difference between doing the commandments as a means of obtaining righteousness and expressing one's relationship with Elohim and his Messiah by faithfully doing the commandments.  Doing the commandments is not an end in itself.  The doing of the commandments is the expression of our relationship with Elohim.    Having position with Elohim as sons and daughters is the objective which is achieved through expressing our love for him by keeping the commandments.

So, to summarize the teaching in Romans 10, Sha'ul is describing the righteousness the Yehudim chased after when they chose to ignore the written Scriptures and put the Pharisaical Oral Torah as their authority and way to righteousness.  Anytime one chooses to lay aside Yahuwah's way of righteousness (steadfastness to the Covenant) and chooses a man-made route instead (following Oral Torah, following Church doctrine, following your pastor's teaching), that one has forfeited the benefits offered by Yahuwah.  There is no righteousness apart from the written Torah of Scriptures, which are the very spoken words of the Creator.  The true righteousness which comes from faith is found in knowing Messiah and following his teaching to obey the Torah of Elohim.  The righteousness which is from the Torah is obtained through our connection to Messiah and by faithfully obeying his commands (Torah).

Romans 2

Next, let's take a look at another interesting "law" passage in Paul's epistles.  In Romans 2, Paul speaks candidly about the value of the Law.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.

13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in Elohim's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

The first point Paul makes here is that having the law does not make one righteous.  Merely having the law or merely hearing the law is no substitute for doing the law.  But don't miss the fact that, as in Romans 10, Paul is clearly expressing that righteousness is imputed to those who obey the Law.  We cannot escape this truth.  It is foundational in the Torah and the Prophets and is expressed in the New Testament as well.

The righteousness by faith message has too long been misrepresented by theologians and well meaning teachers and preachers.  Righteousness is not obtained by just believing in something.  That belief in Messiah has to be accompanied by the action of faithful obedience to the Word.  So, from a practical point of view, as Paul says here, those who obey the Law are those who will be declared righteous.

He then gives a practical example of this:

14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,

15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

16 This will take place on the day when Elohim will judge men's secrets through Yahusha Messiah, as my gospel declares.

We cannot separate the idea of doing righteousness and being righteous.  The two go hand in hand.  One cannot be righteous without doing righteousness.  In other words, to be righteous, one must do righteousness.  And the commandments are the righteous acts which Yahuwah has called us to do.  Thus, doing the commandments places us in position to be declared righteous.

When Paul says that Messiah is our righteousness, he is summarizing our status when we are in relationship with Messiah.  Yahusha was the atoning sacrifice from us, effectively freeing us from our sin.  And by connecting with Messiah, we are placing ourselves under his authority as Master over us, and we are submitting to his way and his will.  This love relationship we have with Elohim and with Messiah is expressed by our faithfully obeying his commandments.  As we do this, we are walking in his righteousness and we are thereby declared to be righteous.

Next, Paul confronts the Yehudim who have the Law:

17 Now you, if you call yourself a Yehudi; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to Elohim;

18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law;

19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark,

20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth--

Paul is teaching here that truth and knowledge are embodied in the Law.  The Torah is Elohim's expression of truth and knowledge.  Thus, to embrace and to do the Torah is to embrace truth and knowledge.

21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?

22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor Elohim by breaking the law?

24 As it is written: "Elohim's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

Again, it is not enough to have the Law.  One must be doing the Law in order to stand righteous before Elohim. If breaking the Torah dishonors Elohim, then it stands to reason that obeying the Torah honors Elohim.

What is the value of the Torah if you pick and choose which of the commandments you want to obey?

25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.

26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?

27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

The teaching here is plain.  You cannot pick and choose which of the commandments to obey.  Either you obey the whole thing, or it is as if you are breaking the whole thing.

Circumcision, for Abraham, was given as a confirmation that he was in covenant relationship with the Almighty.  He was already in the habit of obeying everything Yahuwah commanded him.  But Christians misunderstand what Paul is teaching about circumcision.  The Rabbis had made circumcision to be the ultimate commandment which superseded all others.  But this is not its intended use.

Thus, the discussion of circumcision in Paul's letters is about how the Yehudim have placed too much weight in their rite of circumcision.  Paul's teaching is that circumcision does no good if you are breaking the other commandments of Elohim.  That would be like not being circumcised at all.  Therefore, the important thing to remember is to obey all the commandments of Elohim, and then circumcision has meaning.  Again, the emphasis is in being loyal to the covenant by keeping the commandments of Elohim.  Then, and only then, each of the particular acts of obedience have their intended meaning.  When you are doing all the commandments, circumcision demonstrates your steadfast loyalty to Elohim.

There is much more in the Book of Romans that needs to be decoded and deciphered concerning Paul's treatment of the law.  But this study is intended to be an overview of the Law in all of the New Testament.  Therefore, we must cut short our study of law in Romans and return to it in more detail in a later study article.  But before we leave Paul, let's take a gander at something he taught in Galatians about the law.

Galatians 2:15-21

This passage of Scripture is studied in detail and at some length in my study series on the Book of Galatians.  You can read this particular study at this link: Galatians 2:11-21.  Nevertheless, let's quickly interpret Paul's enigmatic statements about law in this passage to show his support for keeping Torah.

"We who are Yehudim by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Yahusha Messiah.  So we, too, have put our faith in Messiah Yahusha that we may be justified by faith in Messiah and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.  (Galatians 2:15-16)

One of the features of the Oral law of the Pharisees is what is known as the "works of the law."   These works (Hebrew hv[m or ~yv[m “ma-aseh” or pl. “ma-asim,” which is defined as an action, deed, work; precedent) are not the same as the "works" of obeying Elohim's commandments.  No.  Their term works of the law means something very different.  For a Pharisee, the works of the law is an action of a Rabbi or sage that justified the practical manner in which a tradition should be observed.  Thus, the works of the law were laws based on the actions or “works” of a rabbi.  If a Pharisee or Rabbi performed a certain action, then that action was established as law, and was known as a work of the law.

The “works of law” are those precedents set by rabbis and sages which convert an action, work or practice into Law.  When the Oral Torah is unclear about a matter, one may default to the precedent laid down by a rabbi, to guide you in your experience.  An example of a "work of the law" is the law concerning the reciting of the Shema.

Once it happened (ma-aseh) those of R. Gamaliel came home (late) from a wedding feast and they said to him: We have not yet recited the (evening) sh’ma.  He said to them: If the dawn has not yet come up you are still bound to recite.  And not in respect to this alone did they so decide, but whenever the sages say until midnight, the precept may be performed until the dawn comes up. (Berachot 2a)

This "work of the law" establishes as law that the evening reciting of the shema can be done up until the following dawn and be accepted as having been done on time.

So Paul is describing for us the fact that the Rabbinical precedents (works of the law) cannot justify a man before Elohim.  This should be patently obvious, but because we have misunderstood Paul for all these centuries, the Christian community has come to believe that doing the commandments of Yahuwah cannot make a person righteous.  But if this were true, then there would be a blatant discrepancy between Paul and the teaching of the Torah.  Because, as we have seen above, the Torah very clearly teaches us that the doing of the Torah would be righteousness for us who love Yahuwah.

Paul teaches us of the contrast between works of the law and faith in Messiah.  It's the difference between obeying man and obeying Elohim.  To cling to man's commandments - the works of the law - is to reject Messiah, because you cannot at the same time be loyal to both man's system of commandments and Yah's Covenant commandments.

If, while we seek to be justified in Messiah, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Messiah promotes sin? Absolutely not!  If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.  For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for Elohim. (Galatians 2:17-19)

Those who seek salvation and redemption in Messiah cannot go back and live in disobedience to Elohim's commandments, because Messiah does NOT promote sin.  Messiah destroyed lawbreaking on his tree.  This is why he died in our place.  Thus, it would be wrong to "rebuild what I destroyed" - in other words, don't go back into living a life of sin.  Stop breaking the commandments of Yahuwah.

The last statement of Paul needs some interpretation.  "For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for Elohim."   The written Torah of Elohim forbids any adding to or subtracting from the commandments of Elohim.  Thus, "through the written Torah" Paul died "to the oral torah of the Pharisees" so that he might live in obedience to Elohim's commandments.  By dying to the oral torah of the Pharisees, Paul is no longer a slave to that system of man made law.  As a result of being set free from the oral law, Paul is able and willing to keep the faith by obeying only Elohim's written Torah, without adding anything to Elohim's commands, and without subtracting anything from Elohim's commands.

I have been crucified with Messiah and I no longer live, but Messiah lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of Elohim, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of Elohim, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Messiah died for nothing! (Galatians 2:20-21)

By being crucified with Messiah, Paul is dead to all man's laws and traditions and is instead focused on what Elohim desires of us all - obedience to HIS commandments.  The "grace" or "favor" of Elohim is given to those who are loyal to Elohim.  Yahuwah shows his favor with those who show their love and attachment to him by fidelity to his commandments.

Next, Paul says, "for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Messiah died for nothing."  The fact of the matter is, righteousness cannot be gained through man's law - the Pharisees Oral Torah, any churches doctrinal requirements, the Pope's bulls or decrees, or any other proclamation, edict or law enacted by man.  Only through fidelity to Yahuwah as expressed through obedience to his Word can man incur righteousness, just as the Scripture says,

Yahuwah commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear Yahuwah our Elohim, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.   And if we are careful to obey all this law before Yahuwah our Elohim, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness." (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:24-25)

Indeed, Messiah died for nothing if you can get righteousness by doing your own thing, or obeying your own law!  It's only by obeying Elohim's law that Elohim credits righteousness - the "righteousness by faithfulness."

James' Use of the Law

When we come to the book of James, his statements about the law are a little easier to understand than Paul's.  James comes out clearly in favor of encouraging believers in Messiah to be obedient to the Law.  We will explore three areas in James' epistle.  First, we will discuss what James means when he tells us to be doers of the Word.  Next, we'll review James understanding of how faith and works are working together, and how righteousness was credited to Abraham.  And finally, we will review James' use of the Torah commandments as practical instructions for the Messianic community.

Being a Doer of the Word

James begins this section of teaching by exhorting believers not to be enticed by sin:

When tempted, no one should say, "Elohim is tempting me." For Elohim cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

We have no one else to blame for our own sin.  We cannot blame Elohim.  And we cannot blame "the devil."  The devil did not make me do it!  Each one of us sins because our own evil desires drag us into sin.  Of course, as John puts it, sin is the transgression of Elohim's Law:

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4)

So, those who are dragged away by their own evil desires are breaking the Law of Elohim.

In contrast to this, that which is good comes from the Almighty:

Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. (James 1:16-18)

While sin finds its source in our own desires, all that is good comes from the Father.  It is through the word of truth - the Scriptures - that he has given us our spiritual birth.

James follows this teaching about the cause of sin by encouraging believers to take pre-emptive action to avoid sinning and to do right instead:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that Elohim desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:19-21)

The solution to the threat of the enticement to sin is found in the word which Elohim brings.  The "planted" word is the righteous instruction Elohim gives us in his Law.  It is this Law which steers us in the direction of doing good and right and away from all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent in our world.

With this in mind, James encourages us to "do the Word":

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, and so deceive yourselves.  Anyone who is a hearer of the word and not a doer is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:22-24)

The contrast he makes between being a doer and being a hearer of the word is a play off the Hebrew concept of shema.  The Hebrew word usually translated hear is [m;v' which means, hear, listen to, obeyThus, James is telling us not to just hear with our ears the audible command of Yahuwah, but to obey it.  It is a call to action and obedience.

While the great emphasis in evangelical churches is in "getting people saved," the emphasis in the exhortations of Scripture is to "be a disciple" with its accompanying obedience.  The so-called Great Commission states, after all, that we are commanded to

go and make disciples of all nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

The making of disciples does not end with introducing someone to the Savior.  It only begins there.  The disciplining aspect is in the teaching the commandments of Yahuwah.  So James exhorts his readers to be a doer of the Word, which means an obeyer of the commandments.

To merely hear the command of Yahuwah and not to obey is like looking in a mirror at yourself and then immediately forgetting what you saw.  In other words, we must hear the commandment and then follow through with obedience to the commandment.  Knowing what Yahuwah requires of us and then not doing something about it is worthless and does not bring us to holiness.

The commandments of the Torah are not burdensome and difficult to follow, as some teach.  On the contrary, the commandments of Yahuwah are a joy to obey.  Nor is being a voluntary slave to the Law of Elohim a bad thing.  Obedience to the commandments is actually quite freeing and there is blessing in it for the obedient one.

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does.  (James 1:25-28)

What is this "perfect law that gives freedom"?  Why, of course, its the Old Testament Law!

This designation of the Old Testament Law as a "law of freedom" is not original with James.  He has actually borrowed this idea from the Psalmist, who describes the commandments as setting one free:

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free (Ps.119:32).

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts (119:45).

James infers that the law he is speaking of is that found in the Old Testament Scriptures.  He does so by naming two of those laws: "do not commit adultery" and "do not murder." 

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.  Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom (James 2:10-12)

In his view, the follower of Messiah is obligated to obey the "whole law" because if in just one point he stumbles, he is guilty of being a lawbreaker.  For this reason, he exhorts all believers to "speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom" (2:12).  The Law that gives freedom is that same law (the whole law) of the Old Testament.

This freedom which the Bible speaks of is not license to sin.  On the contrary, true liberty is the freedom from bondage to sin which results in the ability to obey the commandments of Elohim.  Paul discusses this liberty:

Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey - whether you are slaves to sin...or to obedience...? You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:16,18).

In Paul's way of thinking, a person is either a slave of sin or a slave of Elohim.  Freedom from the slavery of sin is voluntary submission to Elohim's Laws:

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to Elohim, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Romans 6:20, 22).

So because of the work of Messiah on the tree on behalf of men, people no longer need to be slaves to sin.  Paul's choice was to voluntarily become a slave to Elohim's law because of his freedom from sin.

This may sound very strange to the ears of some, but Paul calls himself a slave of Elohim's law two times.  In Romans 7:22, Paul says, "in my inner being I delight in Elohim's law," and in verse 25 he adds, "so then, I myself in my mind am a slave to Elohim's law."  And in 1 Corinthians 9:21, Paul writes, "I am not free from Elohim's law but am under Messiah's law."  Here the apostle is saying that just because a person is no longer "under the law" (which means to be in transgression of the law) does not mean that he is free from the law.  On the contrary, when a man is no longer under the law (i.e. a transgressor of the law) he is free to obey the law.

The popular view which says that law and grace are mutually exclusive is simply not true. Actually, the grace of Elohim and the keeping of Elohim's law go hand in hand. Speaking of the faith which justifies a man, the apostle said, "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law" (Romans 3:31). Paul goes on to say that those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit submit themselves to Elohim's law. He says, "those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires" (Romans 8:5). Then he asserts that the sinful mind

does not submit to Elohim's law, nor can it do so... You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of Elohim lives in you... Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation - but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it (Romans 8:7,9,12).

The obligation Paul was referring to is to live according to Elohim's law. The person controlled by the sinful nature cannot submit to Elohim's law, but the Christian controlled by the Spirit can submit to and obey completely the law of Elohim.

We conclude that the real freedom which the Christian has is not the liberty to do as one pleases, or to have a situational ethic.  The biblical writers describe Christian liberty as that freedom one has from the slavery of the sinful nature.  This liberty enables the believer to submit to the righteous lifestyle which pleases Elohim.  And that lifestyle is spelled out in specific terms in the Old Testament law.

Faith Without Works is Dead!

James goes on the describe true biblical faith.  This faith is not the kind that merely believes in Elohim.  No.  True biblical faith is the kind that issues in active obedience to the written commandment:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one Elohim. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder. (James 2:14-19)

Indeed, faith without action is dead.  The Christian can not be satisfied with just believing in Jesus.  That kind of  belief is dead religion.  The true disciple of Messiah complements his belief with active obedience to the commandments of the Torah of Elohim.  If the "believing" Christian is not an obedient Christian, it is fair to doubt his status as a Christian.

After all, belief which is nothing more than mental acknowledgement of a fact accomplishes nothing.  As James puts it, "even the demons believe, and shudder."  So, it is not enough to believe that Jesus died for you.  You have to act upon that belief.  You have to take an active role of obeying what Elohim has commanded of his people.  Faith without the action of obedience is dead and worthless.  It is nothing more than dead religion.

True faith says, "I'll show you my belief by what I do."  This is what the patriarch Abraham shows us.  Abraham demonstrated for us the true faith - a faith that has the substance of obedience.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our ancestor Avraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Yitzchak on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Avraham believed Elohim, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called Elohim's friend.  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:20-24)

The testimony about Abraham is that he incurred the favor of Elohim because of his steadfast obedience, not just because he "believed" Elohim.  James tells us that where it says of him, "Avraham believed Elohim, and it was credited to him as righteousness," was fulfilled when Avraham obeyed Elohim.  In other words, the "believing" that Avraham did was an attitude of obedience, such that when he actually performed the action of obedience, the saying that he was credited with righteousness was fulfilled.  His believing Elohim was completed only when he put his belief into action.

So in regard to Avraham, what Paul says seems to contradict what James writes.  Paul wrote,

If, in fact, Avraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-- but not before Elohim.  What does the Scripture say? "Avraham believed Elohim, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Romans 4:2-3)

And James notes,

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

Yet, when we understand the context of these statements, there is really no contradiction at all.

Paul is speaking from the perspective of having been trained as a Pharisee.  The Pharisees emphasize the doing of their Torah, which consists of the written Torah and the Oral Torah - the written Torah is the instruction found in the five books of Mosheh, while the Oral Torah consists of the traditions passed down orally which are attributed to Mosheh (but really aren't from Mosheh).  So Paul understands that the Pharisees' Torah is predominantly a man made religion which requires all to obey the commandments and traditions of men.  So when he writes that Avraham was not justified by works, he is talking about the works of man.  Clearly, no one is justified before the Almighty by performing man's works.  This being the case, its easy to understand that what Paul is saying is true.

But James is speaking about the actions and works of obedience to Elohim's true Torah - the written instructions of Mosheh.  So, James says that merely believing in Elohim does not justify a man.  It's only in the action of obedience to Elohim's word that Avraham and all others find justification.  And this is clearly because that's what Elohim has told us.

Yahuwah commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear Yahuwah our Elohim, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.   And if we are careful to obey all this law before Yahuwah our Elohim, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness." (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:24-25)

So, this is what James is alluding to.  Righteousness is credited to those who keep Covenant with Yahuwah by continuing to obey all the commandments of the Torah.

When Paul writes about believing and having faith, he is talking about Covenant faithfulness in Messiah.  So Paul contrasts the works of law with believing or having faith.  The difference in these expressions is the difference between obeying man as a means of being justified (works of law), and obeying Elohim as the means of being justified (faith or faithfulness).  And when James writes about faith and works working together, he is talking about the fidelity of obedience to Elohim.

The Use of the Torah in James

Besides the lengthy discussion James has about the importance of obedience to Elohim's commandments and being a doer of the Word, there is additional internal evidence in the book of James that the entire Covenant of Torah is the required way of life and walk of faith for followers of Messiah.  In addition to his reference to the 10 commandments in 2:11 (For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker), James also cites numerous precepts from the heart of what is commonly known as the ceremonial law and applies them to the community of the faithful in Messiah.

Vayiqra [Levititcus] 19:12-18 James
19:12  Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your Elohim. I am Yahuwah. 5:12  Above all, my brothers, do not swear-- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.
19:13  Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight. 5:4  Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of Yahuwah Almighty.
19:15  Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. 2:1; 2:9  My brothers, as believers in our glorious Master Yahusha Messiah, don't show favoritism...  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
19:16  Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am Yahuwah. 4:11  Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.
19:17b  Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. 5:19-20  My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back,
remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
19:18a  Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, 5:9  Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
19:18b  but love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahuwah. 2:8  If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.

Could it be any more obvious that James is holding out the Torah of Mosheh, particularly the Holiness Code of Leviticus, as the Law Code that believers in Messiah are obligated to follow and obey?

James infers this in 2:8, where he says, "If you really keep the royal law according to Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing right."  What does he mean by according to Scripture?  In his day there was no such thing as the "New Testament."  He doesn't quote Paul or Peter or Matthew or anyone else when he gives instruction.  What does he quote?  The Torah of Mosheh, of course.  This is the Scripture he is exhorting believers in Messiah to know and obey.  It is that Law Code that has abiding relevance for the disciples of Messiah.

Walter C. Kaiser Jr. has drawn attention to this continuity and relevance of the Old Testament Law in his discussion of the principles of the civil and ceremonial laws and how the New Testament writers applied them to the life of the Messianic assemblies.  In his analysis of James chapter 2, Kaiser correctly perceives that

In (James') inspired mind, the "fulfilling of the law" must be carried out "according to the Scriptures" and these Scriptures are here preeminently the contents of Old Testament law! Harsh as the truth may seem to us, James appears to link the "royal law of love" in verse 8 with a warning against being guilty of being a "lawbreaker" in verse 9 by the use of the Greek correlatives mentio (v.8) and de (v.9). Thus, Christians must sense a legitimate obligation to render obedience to the law (not for their salvation, mind you) or be found guilty of sin! And this law must be that which is found in the inscripturated writings of the OT (kata teen grapheen). (The Uses of the Old Testament in the New [Moody: Chicago, 1985]. p.224)

Although Kaiser's conclusion that the believer is obligated to obey the Old Testament law is not popular in our day, it is certainly consistent with our previous findings regarding the abiding validity of that law.  The entire argument and teaching of the book of James is based on the abiding relevance of the Old Testament Torah.

The Law in 1 John

When we come to the epistle of First John, we have the testimony of yet another writer of the New Testament that the Old Testament Laws and Commandments are the standard for the code of conduct of believers in Messiah.  John simplifies the teaching of Scripture by making summary statements about sin and righteousness - not like the Christian systematic theologies which take volumes and thousands of pages of print to try to explain their complicated and convoluted interpretations of the Bible.

Anyway, John plainly and straightforwardly tells us the practical way we can know and discern one's faith.  He says we can know that a person belongs to Elohim by his actions!

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, Elohim's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Yahusha did (1 John 2:3-6).

We don't need to be confused about who is the real follower of Messiah and who is just faking it.  It is easy to look at a person's actions and know whether he is genuine or not.  Just look at how he lives and you will know. Is he obeying the commands?  If he is, then he is a true disciple.  If not, he is an imposter.

This is also how the Master Yahusha told us to discern the true disciple from the false one.  He said we can know the true and the false by their fruits:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

John says that the real disciples of Messiah will walk just as Yahusha walked.  How did Yahusha walk?  I don't think anyone will dispute that Yahusha Messiah kept the entire Torah of Elohim perfectly throughout his life.   He was the Righteous One.  And we are called to walk like him.  Though we are not perfect, our goal going forward is to keep all the commandments of Elohim.  This is how we demonstrate love for Elohim.

John the apostle explains what love for Elohim is:

This is how we know that we love the children of Elohim: by loving Elohim and carrying out his commands.  This is love for Elohim: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of Elohim overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:2-4)

Obedience to the commandments is the true, biblical way of showing our love for the Creator.  And obedience to Elohim is the test which determines whether or not a person loves Elohim and his neighbor.  Furthermore, contrary to the teaching of popular Christianity which says "those Old Testament commandments are a burden," John says just the opposite.  Obeying Yah's commands is not a burden, rather, it is very doable.  Our faith makes it possible to carry out his commands.

Yahusha said the same thing about the relationship between love for Elohim and obedience: "If you love me, you will obey what I command...whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me...if anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching..." (John 14:15,21,23). So love for Yahusha is expressed by obedience to what he commands.

Later, John confirms what he wrote above.  The person who is the true disciple of Messiah will not only walk as Yahusha did, but he will be righteous and pure just as Yahusha is:

Dear friends, now we are children of Elohim, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.  Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.  But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.  (1 John 3:2-5)

So, the followers of Messiah get rid of the sin in their lives in order to be pure like the Savior.  It was the purpose of Messiah's death that he would take away sin.  So, it stands to reason that when we belong to him, we do our part to stay away from sinful practices.

But, then, what is the definition of sin?  John answers that "sin is lawlessness" or "sin is Torah-lessness."  When the Torah is transgressed, this is, by definition, sin.  He says it again later:

All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.   We know that anyone born of Elohim does not continue to sin; the one who was born of Elohim keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. (1 John 5:17-18)

Believers in Messiah are commanded to stop sinning, which means that they are to begin obeying all the commandments of Yahuwah, which is our righteousness.  In fact,

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.  Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.  He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.  He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.  The reason the Son of Elohim appeared was to destroy the devil's work.  No one who is born of Elohim will continue to sin, because Elohim's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of Elohim.  This is how we know who the children of Elohim are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of Elohim; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:6-10)

Again, it is easy to see who the true children of Elohim are.  They are the ones who are obeying the commandments.  We do not have to be led astray by this.  The one who is righteous is the one who is doing righteousness.

The Protestant theologies try to convince us that we are righteous because we are "in Christ."  And then they proceed to give a twisted and convoluted explanation about what it means to be "in Christ."  But John, like all the other inspired writers of Scripture, makes it very plain that the one who is righteous in Elohim's sight is the one who is practicing the righteous acts of obedience to the Torah of Elohim.  It is just that simple.

Again - and this principle keeps coming up in the writings of the New Testament - walking in the commandments of Elohim's Torah is what gives us righteousness in Elohim's sight.

Yahuwah commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear Yahuwah our Elohim, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.   And if we are careful to obey all this law before Yahuwah our Elohim, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness." (Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:24-25)

Righteousness for us is when we love Elohim and obey his commandments.  Wow!  That sounds just like what John wrote in this epistle!  That's because this is the true teaching of all the Scriptures.  So, reject the popular theologies taught in most of the Christian churches and start believing what Yahuwah has communicated to us over and over again by his prophets, the writers of the Bible.  It's not magic.  Righteousness is conferred upon the person who loves Elohim and walks in obedience to Yahuwah's righteous Torah commandments.

The 10 Commandments in Revelation

Finally, we come to the Book of Revelation which describes the condition of the earth in the last days just before the return of Messiah.  Since this prophetic writing depicts the sin of the world in the end times and his judgment on the world because of that sin, we can get a glimpse of what Elohim requires of man.

The most notable reference to the Law in Revelation is the way in which believers in Messiah are described and depicted in the last days.

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring-- those who obey Elohim's commandments and hold to the testimony of Yahusha. (Revelation 12:17)

and

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey Elohim's commandments and remain faithful to Yahusha. (Revelation 14:12)

It seems that the genuine followers of Messiah in the last days will be those who not only are attached to Messiah, but who also are remaining obedient to the commandments of Elohim.  This should not surprise us because we have seen this teaching throughout the rest of the New Testament.  For it is by keeping the commandments that we are commended to Elohim.  Yahusha taught that the keeping of the commandments would give a man eternal life.

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Yahusha replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."  "Which ones?" the man inquired. Yahusha replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 19:17-19)

If the Master himself said that keeping the commandments would give a man eternal life, then who are we to question his wisdom?

Yet, there is another testimony of the requirement of Elohim for his people in the last days.  The entire series of judgments which are poured out on the earth are brought upon a people who are characterized by their transgressions of Elohim's Torah commandments.  Rather than to expound on each occurrence, let's summarize these allusions to the Torah of Elohim with a chart.

The 10 Commandments

 (traditional)

The Commandment alluded to in Revelation
1  You shall have no other gods before me. 13:8  All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-- all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb
2  You shall not make for yourself an idol in the image of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them 9:20  The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood-- idols that cannot see or hear or walk.
13:14-15  He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.  He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
14:9-10  A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of Elohim's fury,
3  You shall not misuse the name of Yahuwah your Elohim 11:18  The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name

13:6  He opened his mouth to blaspheme Elohim, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.

16:9-11 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of Elohim, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him... Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the Elohim of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done

4  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. For in six days Yahuwah made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day 14:7 He said in a loud voice, "Fear Elohim and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."

14:11-12  There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.  This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey Elohim's commandments and remain faithful to Yahusha.

5  Honor your father and your mother 2 Tim 3: 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents
6  You shall not murder 21:8  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
7  You shall not commit adultery 17:2   With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries."
8  You shall not steal 9:21  Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
9  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor 21:8  But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
10  You shall not covet (not mentioned)

If the Torah of Elohim had been done away with, then it could not be used as the standard by which the sinful world will be judged.  Yet, this is precisely the teaching of the book of Revelation.  But we know that the righteous judgment of Elohim is based on truth.  Everyone will be judged by their works - their obedience to or their disobedience of the Law of Elohim.

I Yahuwah have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares Adonai Yahuwah. (Ezekiel 24:14)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. (Revelation 20:13)

The Book of Revelation is that prophesy which describes for us the judgment of Yahuwah upon a sinful, unbelieving world.  They are worthy of judgment because they are habitually transgressing the righteous Torah of Elohim.  But the followers of Messiah are rescued from wrath because they express their love and loyalty to Elohim by faithfully obeying his Covenant commandments.

Summary

The whole of the New Testament is in agreement with the whole of the Old Testament when it comes to Elohim's righteous instructions.  The law of Elohim is eternal.  Elohim did not tease the ancient people of Israel with a law that they were unable to keep.  Yahuwah's law is good and righteous and holy and spiritual and unchanging.  Elohim does not change his mind when it comes to sin and righteousness.  The standards and laws of Elohim do not change and have not been done away with.

Both Messiah Yahusha and the apostle Paul confirm in their teachings that the Torah is the body of instructions which those who love Elohim and his Messiah will walk in.  The very definitions of sin and righteousness are encapsulated in the Torah of Mosheh.  Thus, the Torah is the abiding standard of conduct for those who seek eternal life with Elohim in his paradise.

END